Three Takeaways From STAREAST 2018

Earlier this month, I attended and spoke at the 25th annual STAREAST Conference, which hosted 1,000 attendees in Orlando, Fla., and 3,000 more virtually. Here are my top three takeaways.

1. Successful DevOps transformations focus on culture

A majority of sessions focused on testing trends and strategies for things like API testing, test automation, continuous integration and delivery and DevOps. Several presenters touched on the cultural challenges associated with implementing a DevOps transformation. This can often be the hardest part of making the transition because it requires people to change how they think and how they approach their work.

In DevOps transformation, all jobs will be impacted, and organizations that recognize this and allow individuals time to start thinking about how it will impact their roles tend to be more successful.

Several presenters touched on the importance of the tester’s role in a DevOps environment. In a session about continuous testing and test automation, Wayne Ariola, CMO of Tricentis, suggested that outsourced testing is not conducive to a continuous testing environment and is therefore a good option for DevOps organizations.

Organizations that are trying to streamline their operations by scripting and automating everything from their tests to the setup of the actual production machines requires teams that have not collaborated much in the past to work together, and to align their work to a shared business objective. For this reason, it’s difficult for outsourced teams to be as productive, since it’s hard to communicate business value — let alone change the culture — when testers are separated from the rest of the company.

2. You’re behind if you haven’t started automating

A close second for the most-talked-about element of DevOps transformation was automation. Presenters seemed to be on the same page that automation is imperative, and you’re behind if you’re not orchestrating between tools and teams across development, testing and operations.

However, organizations are still struggling to transition from test automation to continuous testing. As organizations continue to try to accelerate release cycles to keep up with the competition and respond to customer demand more quickly, the ability to execute automated tests and obtain feedback on business risk will become imperative. Reliance on manual testing remains a top technical challenge in software development.

3. What’s next in testing

Machine learning and AI were hot topics, with lots of sessions explaining what it is and what it means for testers. In a session titled, “Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Skills for the Testing World,” Jason Arbon and Tariq King reviewed key approaches for testers including Bayesian networks, neural networks, K-means clustering, decision trees and reinforcement learning.

There were a few products leveraging AI on display in the expo hall, though my impression is that this market is still in its infancy, and it will be a few years before AI has a significant impact on testing. Though we use AI and machine learning on a daily basis (google searches!), being able to rely on and entirely trust a tool that writes tests for you will take some time… and a lot of testing!

Along with new technology trends such as AI, use of voice or testing IoT devices are exciting new trends that will quickly become mandatory in our always connected world. In a presentation about McGraw-Hill Education’s CI/CD processes, Anjeneya Dubey described how the company’s testing team created an Alexa voice-enabled skill to run performance tests.

As usual, Techwell did a great job hosting STAREAST 2018. Thanks to everyone who came to my session or stopped by the QASymphony booth. If you missed us at Star East, QASymphony will be exhibiting at QUEST in San Antonio next week. Or if you’re in Europe, check out Quality Jam London, happening Oct. 18 — the call for speakers is now open!

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